Blue Ridge Blend: Adrian Maldonado and Hatchet Coffee Roasters
Head Roaster Adrian Maldonado roasts for Hatchet Coffee Roasters on an MCR-20, 20 kilogram roaster in a commercial space next door to the Hatchet Cafe in Boone, North Carolina. The space is open to the public, and often invites in cafe customers looking for a backstage pass into the coffee shop world. Adrian loves giving tours and inviting people into the space, even in the middle of a workday. “Kids think [the roaster] looks like a train,” he says.
Roasting was a natural career path for Adrian to seek out, after growing up in a family that centered their get-togethers around coffee. His grandfather grew and roasted coffee in Puerto Rico. Coffee appealed to him through his love of process and crafting. Before roasting, Adrian was a technician in a woodshop. “I’ve also always had a love for machines and mechanical things,” he says.
He came to Hatchet Coffee in 2020. “I found myself glued to the roaster,” he says. He took over the role of head roaster a few months later.
The Way Up
Hatchet Coffee Roasters was founded in the mid 2010s by a pair of bread bakers on the night shift. They started roasting and selling Hatchet coffee in 2016, focusing on farmer’s markets at first. The first roastery was a small, closet-like space in Boone. They moved from their first location to a larger space in 2019, the same year that the company invested in an MCR-20. “They went back and forth on getting a bigger roaster,” Adrian says. They wanted enough capacity to grow, without losing control of the roast.
The roaster helped them grow into the space, which felt at first as if it might be too big. But bigger volumes meant more storage, and the space soon filled up.
With more production possible, Hatchet Coffee could now develop the cafe side of their business. It started with a focus on coffee, and grew to include a novelty gifts and merchandise section.
Now, the operation includes a team of three roasters who roast over twenty batches daily. Every day, Adrian works alongside Brian Wilde and AE Edgison. Most duties are shared between the trio, which leads to a tight-knit operation. “We’re not a family–we’re a bunch of homies,” Adrian says. “We choose to be around each other.”
Next door, the cafe runs on a team of about thirty, including managers, baristas, and cashiers.
Part of what drew Adrian to Hatchet Coffee Roasters was its focus on hospitality. Because they never want to leave their customers wanting, they take all suggestions into consideration. It was their regulars that suggested merch like tumblers and wrap glasses be sold in the eshop and on location, a move that’s earned the company a boon of non-coffee sales.
Part of the success of the merch line is that people like repping the brand. They believe in its core values and respond to the focus on hospitality and warmth. What started with coffee has become a service to the wider community, as both a place to gather and a way to connect with each other based on mutual interests.
Now, the biggest challenge the team faces is becoming efficient with space as well as time. While the roastery once felt impossibly huge, now they find themselves nearly at the brim. And the team’s plates are full, too. “We’re trying to find creative ways to solve problems and keep up with growth without adding too many hands,” Adrian says.
In service of streamlining, the operation switched from selling their coffee in bags to selling it in pouches. The pouches are much easier to fill, and will fit better in an auto-bagger, which is the next step in the process. Shaving time off the bagging process will allow the team to keep their attention where it counts.
The Hatchet Coffee Roasters Menu
Hatchet Coffee Roasters offers a menu of ten to fifteen coffees, depending on the time of year and current single origin selection. The lineup includes a few mainstays: an Ethiopia and a Colombia are always available, as well as a Brazil and Guatemala. Right now, Hatchet roasts two Ethiopias, one from Kayon Mountain in the Oromia region of East Guji, and one from the Urga woreda of Guji.
Hatchet Coffee Roasters also delivers a variety of blends, such as the Blue Ridge Blend, a dark roast with a syrupy flavor profile. The roast is a partnership with Blue Ridge Conservancy of Boone, an organization working to conserve land and water resources in North Carolina.
Adrian also puts out a few seasonals, such as Hoodie Season, the classic fall/winter blend that sells out consistently every year. Hoodie Season is a mix of a Kenya Kichwa Tembo and a Brazil Fazenda Alta Vista, sources exclusive to the blend.
Most greens are sourced through Cafe Imports, although Adrian foresees more importers joining the roster once the streamlining process has succeeded in giving him more time.
In the cafe, customers can order a traditional cafe menu as well as in-house craft lattes, nitro cold brew, teas, and chai. The cafe menu changes seasonally as well: “constantly rotating drinks keeps our customers excited,” Adrian says. A seasonal menu also gives the company the opportunity to help the community fundraise with limited edition beverages.
As soon as possible, the Hatchet Coffee Roasters roastery will install an auto-bagger to help distill the roasting process down into its most efficient version. When that’s done, the crew will have more time to focus on the essence of Hatchet, which includes the roast as well as its community outreach and collaborations with local creators like artists and musicians.
With more time on his hands, Adrian is hoping to bring back bi-monthly community events, like cuppings and pairings, for the upcoming warmer months. “Anything to make the product more approachable,” he says.
Long-term, the team foresees a move to a bigger space as the brand continues to grow. After the move, they believe that a second roaster might be on the horizon, as their current roaster–affectionately named Milly–is currently running all day, five days a week. “She’s holding it down for us,” Adrian says.
Bring Hatchet Coffee Roasters Home
You can find Hatchet coffee all along the East Coast, from Florida to Oklahoma: In Charlotte at The Hobbyist, in Fayetteville at La Claires, or in Florida, Georgia and Oklahoma at Symmetry Coffee, Good Coffee, and Green Eyes, respectively. You can also shop the lineup of coffee and merch on the Hatchet Coffee Roasters website, visit them in the cafe any day of the week from 7-4, or follow them on Instagram and Facebook.